Today's D Brief: COVID hits DoD policy chief, USCG cutter; Trump attacks election; EU unreadiness; SPACECOM HQ; And a bit more.

The Pentagon’s noted conspiracy theorist of an interim policy chief tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. And that means Anthony Tata, who is officially “Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy,” will now “isolate at home for the next 14 days in accordance with Center for Disease Control protocols,” Hoffman said.

It’s unclear when exactly Tata contracted the virus, but Hoffman’s statement opened with an acknowledgement that Lithuania’s Defense Minister, Raimundas Karoblis, found out Thursday that he tested positive for COVID-19. Karoblis dropped by the Pentagon last Friday, and he met with Tata as well as Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller and the Army and Air Force service secretaries. Then on Monday, Karoblis met Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite. “All have been tested since their meetings,” Hoffman said, adding, “Additional necessary testing for individuals who had contact with Mr. Tata is ongoing. We will report additional positive cases as appropriate.”

In case you're wondering, "Miller is not quarantining," Hoffman said. "Similarly, each of the Service Secretaries are not quarantining based on testing and mitigation measures that were in place during the Lithuanian delegation’s visit and CDC guidelines."

Worth noting: “Miller and other senior staff and a media contingent traveled Wednesday to meet with troops and leaders at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then flew out to the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, off the coast of Virginia,” Lita Baldor of the Associated Press reports this morning. “Video of the visit showed Miller shaking hands and hugging people at Fort Bragg, and he met with sailors on the ship.”

For the record, Hoffman said the U.S. military “has learned much over the last 10 months of COVID, and even recently we have recommitted to fastidiously following the CDC guidelines with respect to mitigation measures — face coverings, social distancing, contact tracing, hand washing and virtual engagements among others.”

ICYMI on Wednesday: U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton returned to its base in California after 11 of its 133 crew members tested positive for Covid while deployed. “Stratton left Coast Guard Base Alameda, California, on Oct. 28 on what was supposed to have been a roughly seven-week patrol in the Eastern Pacific,” NBC News Courtney Kube reported. “Two weeks later, on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12, several crew members began to develop symptoms.”

Meanwhile across the U.S., “Test, case, and hospitalization counts broke all-time records” on Thursday, The Atlantic’s Covid Tracking Project reported after reviewing yesterday’s sordid pandemic numbers. And for the first time, more than 80,000 Americans are hospitalized with the disease, the Wall Street Journal reports

BTW: The Air Force is sending 60 medical personnel to North Dakota on Saturday to help Minot, Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks hospitals treat Covid patients. "With hospitals projecting a surge in COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks, we’re deeply grateful to the Department of Defense and FEMA for granting our request for additional resources to help save lives and alleviate the immense pressure on North Dakota’s hospitals and long-term care facilities," Republican Governor Doug Bergum said in a statement Thursday. More from the Grand Forks Herald, here.

One more thing: The CDC recommends staying home this Thanksgiving to help minimize disease vectors by sending fewer Americans to other states. Details, here.

From Defense One

As Spotlight Fades, What Next for Special Operators? // Kevin Baron: Under Trump, the Pentagon's ‘service secretary’ in charge of SOF has changed hands eight times between seven people.

Put Societal Resilience at the Center of Defense Planning // Elisabeth Braw: It’s already foolish to focus too narrowly on military attack and response. Soon it will be fatuous.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 81 // Defense One Staff : What to expect from the Biden administration.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: UK defense spending; COVID-prediction app; Good news for Boeing; and more. 

The Final Pandemic Surge Is Crashing Over America // Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic: For the first time, the U.S. recorded 1 million COVID-19 cases in one week.

US Army Wants Data Analytics to Spot ‘Emerging Tech Leaders’ // Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: The Army plans to issue a call later this month through its Small Business Innovation Research program.

CBP Proposes to Expand Biometric Data Collection at Border // Mila Jasper, Nextgov: A proposed rule would allow the program to expand beyond pilot sites and collect more data from more people.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1942, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born in Scranton, Pa. The Associated Press reminds us today that in January, “Biden will enter office as the oldest president in the nation’s history.”

Post-election latest: Georgia chooses Biden. State officials on Thursday completed their recount — known formally as a “Risk Limiting Audit” — of presidential votes cast in this year’s general election, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement.
The formal result: “The Risk Limiting Audit reaffirmed the outcome of the presidential race in Georgia as originally reported, with Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump in the state,” Raffensperger’s office said.
By the numbers: 

  • 2,475,141 Georgians chose Joe Biden, or 49.5% of those who cast ballots across the Peach state; 
  • Trump netted 2,462,857 votes — or 49.3% — which put him 12,284 votes shy of Biden’s total.

Next up, “State law says Raffensperger must certify the election results by 5 p.m. Friday,” the Associated Press reports today from Atlanta. “Then, Gov. Brian Kemp has until 5 p.m. Saturday to certify the state’s slate of presidential electors.”
The Georgia fine print, from Raffensperger’s Thursday statement: “Because the margin is still less than 0.5%, the President can request a recount after certification of the results. That recount will be conducted by rescanning all paper ballots.”
Nationwide, here are key upcoming post-election deadlines, via the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post:

  • Michigan and Pennsylvania must certify each state’s results by Monday;
  • Nevada must certify by Tuesday;
  • Arizona must certify one week from Monday, which is Nov. 30;
  • Wisconsin must certify the next day, Dec. 1;
  • The Electoral College casts ballots on Dec. 14;
  • Vice President Pence receives EC votes on Dec. 23;

And afterward in a joint session, “Congress will count those votes on January 6. That’s what’s going to happen,” Benjamin Wittes explained on Twitter Thursday evening.
“All the rest is antidemocratic noise,” Wittes continued. “The reason you are hearing nothing but calm seriousness from the president-elect and his team is that they know this. The antidemocratic noise is a very serious problem. But it will not prevent Biden from becoming president.”
Apropos of nothing: “No one talks about Hunter Biden anymore,” Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times noted on Twitter Thursday. 

Meanwhile at the WH, President Trump reportedly “told an ally that he knows he lost but is delaying the transition and is trying to sow doubt about election results to get back at Dem[ocrat]s for questioning the legitimacy of his own election,” CNN reported Thursday. “Revenge for the Russia probe” is how The Daily Beast described those allegations.
Elsewhere in the WH, “Some of the president's advisers act like they think he can still overturn the election results — because they remain on the payroll and don't have another choice,” Axios reports this morning. “But talk to them privately, and many say Rudy Giuliani and his team are on a dead-end path.”
The view from a distinguished presidential historian: “This is a manufactured crisis. It is a president abusing his huge powers in order to stay in office after the voters clearly rejected him for re-election,” Michael Beschloss told David Sanger of the New York Times in an informative glimpse into U.S. history for precedents for Trump’s post-election words and actions.

You may be wondering: What can we expect from a Biden White House? Our own Katie Bo Williams and Patrick Tucker explain in our latest Defense One Radio podcast, which just posted today. Find that over here.

We now have six possible locations for Space Command’s new HQs, which will host about 1,400 personnel. The Air Force announced the following locations on Thursday, with a final decision expected early next year:

  • New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base;
  • Nebraska’s Offutt AFB; 
  • Florida’s Patrick AFB; 
  • Colorado’s Peterson AFB; 
  • Alabama’s Redstone Army Airfield; 
  • And Port San Antonio, in Texas. 

Rewind: “In May, the Pentagon directed the Air Force to go back to the drawing board to find a permanent home for its 11th unified combatant command, which was reactivated in August 2019,” reported Thursday.

Happening just before noon: Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett will be given what’s called the Gen. Bernard A. Schriever Award today at 11:45 a.m. ET during this year's 6th Annual Schriever Space Futures Forum. Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson is scheduled to speak at the same event a little over a half an hour later. Like most events during the pandemic, this one is virtual.
And later in the afternoon, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. John Hyten is scheduled to speak at that same forum. More information, including registration, here.
FWIW: The readiness of military aircraft is lacking, GAO finds. Air Force Times’ Steve Losey breaks out a few details: “In the report, which was requested by Congress, GAO said that it studied readiness rates for 46 aircraft across those four services between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2019. Of those, only three met their annual mission-capable goals for a majority of those years.” Read that, here.

And finally this week: The EU gets honest. The European Union formally acknowledged today that it doesn’t have the capability to form “a standalone military power able to help NATO or deploy troops rapidly to regional crises,” Reuters reports from Brussels.
That news comes from “the EU’s first annual defence review, [which was] presented to the bloc’s defence ministers on Friday, [and] found that only 60% of the national troops and weapons nominally available to NATO are in a fit state to be deployed.”
In short, “European defence suffers from fragmentation, duplication and insufficient operational engagement,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
Now what? “The 27-nation EU aims to draw up a military doctrine by 2022 to define future threats and ambitions,” Reuters writes. Read on, here.